Spinning To Be A Better Cyclist

21 April, 2017

For the last 6 months I have developed a real love for Spin. I know I know, before the reprimand, in my defense, the Northeast becomes very cold for half a year and my outdoor cycling habits fade with the changes of seasons. As a fragile-to-cold-weather-Californian-native, my physical and mental health suffers enormously if I'm not outdoors in the sun, so my way to cope and welcome an escape activity from winter and it's blues is by indoor cycling. It's rather a convenient and beneficial way for me to keep my fitness levels high year round so that when warmer weather arrives, I'm able to build up my cycling endurance performance. I am in no way a pro cyclist but I do love being able to conquer my fitness goals and rides.

In the winter, indoor cycling has become my escape from cold, wet and dark climates while keeping my fitness levels on point. In the heat of summer, riding inside provides me a refreshing relief from hot-humid temperatures and heavy traffic pollution that really aggravates my allergies and symptoms of dry eyes. Spin classes have also become convenient in the spring and fall, when unpredictable weather or levels of pollen can affect my weekend riding plans. With a spin class I enjoy a predictable schedule and structured riding plan with a familiar instructor who pushes and motivates me with the right amount of energy and music to help me cope in these seasons.

A year ago I bought myself a turbo trainer to help me address some of these issues. I set up in my cozy basement with a large flat screen tv and did everything to add variety to my session from adding music, a heart monitor, a cycle computer, online classes, tv, and youtube rides to find myself just skipping it and heading to the gym instead. I also found it very difficult to stand up and too much effort to adjust resistance to get the outputs I wanted on a trainer. I thought of joining Zwift but I wanted to be off the trainer to challenge myself more physically. Maybe in all, I needed a little variety less digital to spice it up so I signed up for spin and have loved it since.
While there are many benefits to cycling indoors, some personal benefits I have received are a.) group exercise provides me motivation b.) higher calorie burn c.) higher endorphin output d.) better performance on the bike. With a group exercise, at first I was worried about a too enthusiastic instructor/crowd but luckily my instructor was chill and kept the crowd suffering and focused. At the end of a session, I'd burn enough calories to help me keep a stable weight and lose some as a bonus. At the end of a session, my work stress was gone where I'd go home and dance while cooking dinner. Winter blues didn't even have a chance to pop up it's ugly head. For performance, I only noticed my climbing endurance was better after packing on the resistance and cadence training on a spin bike. My instructor is big on climbs and I'm grateful for it as it's been great strength and heart rate building for climbing these hilly parts of Upstate NY.

There are benefits to cycling indoors that have helped my outdoor cycling. Aside from the health and fitness benefits, with a little planning I am able to received the most out of a spin session to benefit my outdoor cycling endurance. In my plan, I schedule Mondays and Wednesdays after work for a 45-60 minute indoor spin session each week, with just one or two outdoor rides, usually on Saturday or Sunday to build my endurance and enjoy the outdoors. Since my goal in the beginning of Spring is to cycle 50+miles by summer, I was recommend an eight-week plan (at 14 mph, a 50-mile ride will take about 3 hours and 30 minutes). To work up to a metric century (100K or 62 miles), the plan recommended to me is 11 weeks (at 14 mph, a 62-mile ride will take about 4 hours and 30 minutes). To build up this endurance my weekend rides usually consists of 20-35 miles as of now. Every weekend I will challenge myself with 5 more miles, hillier terrain, and a faster pace till my 50 miles goal approaches. Hopefully, the harder I push in spin, the better my efforts on the road will be.

Embarrassingly, I do enjoy the euphoric endorphin induced feelings and the puddle of sweat I've created on the floor after a session. Heck, I even enjoy the Ron Burgundy type figure my instructor reminds me of with his mustache and 70's-80's dad rock-n-roll playlist. I can dig it. What I especially enjoy is how I quickly found myself fitter and stronger to push myself on a ride. In no way are outdoor and indoor cycling the same but when it comes to getting on the road and trail, I can notice my heart and legs wanting to climb higher and ride further, thanks to spin.

images: pixicycling/shuttershock

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